Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tarzan Bootleg Bonanza

Found a guy on Ebay offering bootleg DVDs of the entires series of the Tarzan television show from 1966-68. I had vague memories of the show but considering that I was four years old when it came out and that the last time it was syndicated in my area was the 1970s, it's been a while since I'd seen an episode. DVDs cane Friday and since then I've watched four episodes.
The show is kind of interesting in that it's a mishmash of various versions of Tarzan. It was originally to have starred the then most recent movie Tarzan Mike Henry, but Henry bowed out due to various health problems incurred while shooting his three Tarzan films. Anyway, the Tarzan character was much like Henry's version. He spoke perfect English and was as comfortable in civilization as in the jungle. But like earlier film Tarzans he lived in a tree house and had a chimp named Cheeta. He also has an adopted son named Jai, who always annoyed the heck out of me. I know TV producers think that kids need a kid to identify with in a series but I never identified with Jai. Too whiny.
Mike Henry's last movie, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, was shot in Brazil and the producers of the show planned to film the TV series there but after two hurricane seasons and various other problems they moved production to Mexico after five episodes. Mexico is a pretty good stand in for Africa since the real Africa has more plains and grasslands than jungle.
Ely himself looks good in the role, though he has sort of a beach boy look to him that's not quite my idea of Tarzan. Still he had the physique and I understand female viewers were very enthusiastic about the show at the time. Ely did almost all his own stunts, including wrestling various animals. Over the course of the series he picked up an impressive list of injuries too.
Anyway, I've enjoyed the episodes I've watched so far. I know that as the series progressed they had a lot of big name guests stars. James Whitmore, Helen Hayes, Julie Harris, Woody Strode, and believe it or not, Diana Ross and the Supremes playing a trio of Nuns. Former Tarzan Jock Mahoney shows up too as a villain. (Ely would mirror this years later, playing a bad guy in an episode of short lived Wolf Larson Tarzan series.) So I have all that to look forward to.
Speaking of Mahoney, along with the fifty something episodes of the TV series, the seller also included DVDs of both Mahoney's Tarzan films, all three of Mike Henry's, five with Lex Barker and five with Gordon Scott. So far only the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films have been made available commercially so I'm glad to get copies of the others. I already owned The Mahoney and Henry movies, but none of the rest.

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